Charlie Sykes
The Bulwark Presents
Morning Shots with Charlie Sykes

It’s Not the Tweet

“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” ― George Orwell, 1984
June 10, 2020
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(Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

In this, the 6000th year of our idiocracy, perhaps we should take a moment to refocus. Let’s start by ignoring the fact that the president’s latest insanity came in a tweet.

It’s hard to overstate how batshit crazy this all is. On yesterday’s podcast with Politico’s Tim Alberta, I described it as “f*cking nuts,” which was enough to earn us an EXPLICIT RATING. But even by the lizardy standards of the right’s fever swamps, this was scaly stuff.

Veteran fact checker Daniel Dale tracked the apparent flow of the batshittery:

But Republicans had little trouble brushing it off, easily sliding into smirking evasion. (See Tim Miller’s piece today.) We know the playbook: They didn’t see the tweet; they have more important things to do, wait their phone is ringing, and it’s lunchtime. 

They have psychologically absorbed the essential triviality of the thing. We know the drill: I wish he’d tweet less butgorsuchjudgesregulationstaxcutssocialismmaga. So, cringe, shuffle, LOL. And we move on.

They don’t even bother to look, because then they would have to think, and respond, and a conscience is a terrible thing to have these days. Plus, it’s just a tweet, right?

But the problem is not the tweet. That’s a distraction.

The problem here is the mind of Donald Trump.

The fact that this insanity appears in a tweet seems to distract us from the rather more fundamental fact that it is insane.

But this is the way the president of the United States thinks; the way he processes information and makes judgments. He has access to the world’s most sophisticated intelligence network, and yet continues to get his information not just from television, but from the flakiest corners of the disinformation universe where lies and hoaxes are the currency of the realm.

And, apparently, he can’t tell the difference. Or does not care. 

There are two broad possibilities here: (1) he is so addled and gullible that he actually believes this (actually quite stupid) conspiracy theory, which raises questions about his ability to assess evidence of any sort or, (2) he’s just flinging feces from the bunker to trigger the libs, which Rush Limbaugh assures us is some form of brilliance.

In other words, he either believes it, in which case he’s nuts; or (like his accusations against Joe Scarborough), he doesn’t care if it is true, in which case he is a cynical and vicious sociopath.

The problem isn’t the tweets; it’s the man.  Charles C.W. Cooke gets it exactly right:

This is (almost) beyond parody. The source that triggered Trump was a Russian media operative named Kristian Brunovich Rouz. (Russians. It’s always Russians.) Via the Daily Beast:

Kristian Brunovich Rouz, originally from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, has been living in San Diego, where OAN is based, since August 2017, reporting on U.S. politics for the 24-hour news channel. For all of that time, he’s been simultaneously writing for Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned news wire that played a role in Russia’s 2016 election-interference operation, according to an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community.

Let that sink in.

Rouz’s on-air reports for OAN include a wholly fabricated 2017 segment claiming Hillary Clinton is secretly bankrolling antifa through her political action committee. Clinton, Rouz claimed falsely, gave antifa protesters $800,000 that “went toward things like bricks, hammers, bats, and chains.”

Other smears target billionaire financier George Soros, a longtime Kremlin bête noire. In one segment, Rouz amplified a thoroughly debunked claim that Soros collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, when the Jewish philanthropist was 14 years old. Another Rouz story accused Soros of secretly funding migrant caravans.

But the story about the Buffalo protester was a whole new level of mendacity.  The Wapo takes a crack at explaining. 

In this case, Rouz claims that Gugino was part of a “false flag provocation by far left group antifa.” In other words, that the elderly Gugino intentionally injured himself to make the police look bad, as though there were no other available evidence of the police treating protesters in questionable ways.

The evidence that Gugino is antifa? That he was holding his phone in his hand.

“Newly released videos appear to show Gugino using a police tracker on his phone trying to scan police communications during the protest,” Rouz says. “The tactic, known as skimming, is an old trick used by antifa to locate police officers and plan violence activities, bypassing the police response.”

First, there are no “newly released videos” — just the original video of Gugino approaching the police.

Which leads us to the GOP’s response…

2. Republican Senators Suffer Sudden Onset of Hysterical Blindness

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Back in 2015, I was pretty much all-in for Marco Rubio.